September 2005 News
Copper Country's U.S. 41 named National Scenic Byway
HOUGHTON -- The Copper Country Trail corridor, which includes the Houghton area and the entire Keweenaw Peninsula north of the Portage Lift Bridge, received National Scenic Byway designation on Thursday, Sept. 22, making the area eligible for federal funds to improve the quality of visitors' experiences.
The Portage Lake Lift Bridge on U.S. 41, connecting the cities of Hancock
(background) and Houghton, is the gateway to the Copper Country Trail, now
designated as a National Scenic Byway. The bridge is the widest and heaviest
double-deck bridge in the world. (Photo by Justin Murawski, courtesy www.byways.org.)
Jim Stingle, executive director for the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), representing the Copper Country Trail Committee, accepted the National Scenic Byway designation at the Sept. 22, 2005, designation event in Washington, D.C. Awarding the designation were U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Federal Highway Acting Administrator J. Richard Capka.
U.S. 41 from Houghton to Copper Harbor is now officially designated as a National Scenic Byway.
In addition to a $25,000 grant in seed money for marketing, the designation will give the area an advantage in future applications for funding projects intended to attract visitors and entice them to stay longer.
In a letter announcing the National Scenic Byway designation, Richard Baker, executive director of the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Committee, writes: "Program funds may be used for enhancing, protecting, or preserving resources directly related to the byway, or its intrinsic qualities. Projects may also include safety improvements, bicycle paths, rest areas, interpretive facilities, and
The Committee, made up of about 30 representatives of local organizations and government entities -- from city, village and township officials to the Keweenaw National Historical Park -- began working on the application process a year ago and submitted the application in March 2005, Baker noted.
The Copper Country Trail Committee applied for the designation under the historical category, with the Keweenaw National Historical Park and its cooperating sites as a foundation, Baker explained. They also added other potential sites that tell the Copper Country history.
The Quincy Mine Hoist and Shafthouse, along the U.S. 41 Copper Country Trail
Scenic Byway, was built in 1918. It is the world's largest steam hoist. A
cooperating site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, the site offers
underground tours, a mining equipment display and a tram ride. (Photo by Charles
Eshbach © 2002 Copper Country Trail Scenic Byway and courtesy byways.org.)
Frank Fiala, Keweenaw National Historical Park superintendent, was pleased
with the designation.
"Leveraging the park's presence certainly was significant in the
designation," Fiala said, "and we were delighted to collaborate and
cooperate with all the groups involved in achieving this success."
Baker's letter invites the Committee members to celebrate the Copper Country Trail's National Scenic Byway designation at 4:30 p.m.on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Office, 902 College Ave., Houghton. The celebration is also open to the
public, Baker said.
Keweenaw County Commissioner Don Keith was enthusiastic about the significance
of the Scenic Byway designation.
"I am thrilled and excited," Keith said. "This is certainly a huge thing for the future of Keweenaw County.".
Boat tours to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, part of Fort Wilkins Historic
Park, allow visitors to explore the property and view the light that has guided
ships into Copper Harbor since 1849. (Photo courtesy www.byways.org.)
Baker said one of the goals of the program is to facilitate various entities working with one another.
"We need to be aware that what happens down here in Houghton County or the cities of Houghton and Hancock has an effect on the communities farther north, including all of Keweenaw County," Baker added.
Baker said his own visits to Keweenaw County have been positive experiences.
He praised the Copper Harbor business owners for keeping long hours during the
visitor seasons. Some are even open in winter.
"They do a nice job of serving the visitors," Baker said.
Lori Hauswirth, WUPPDR associate planner, and Chris Edlin, WUPPDR assistant
planner, were in charge of drafting the Copper Country Trail Corridor Management
Plan for the 2005 National Scenic Byway
"It's exciting for the Committee and the area to have this type of
designation," Hauswirth said. "It's going to give them national
Edlin noted the key characteristic of the designation is that it's
"It doesn't come with any regulations," Edlin said. "It's
strictly promotional. It provides guidance to the community. If they wish to use
any land use regulation it continues to be up to the local governments."
Evan McDonald, executive director of the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), a member
of the Committee that worked with WUPPDR on the plan, said KLT hopes the goals
of the Management Plan will be implemented.
"They did lay out some very clear goals," he said.
McDonald noted the plan lists five main goals: community participation,
stewardship, sustainable development, visitor experience and safety and
transportation. Under stewardship, he said, the goal is "to protect and
enhance the historic, scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources of
the Copper Country Trail Corridor."
Stewardship is an essential goal to have for this project, McDonald
"From our standpoint the positive aspect is that the byway designation
highlights the value of these resources," McDonald said. "My concern
and the KLT Board's concern is that there isn't enforcement authority to protect
The Committee includes representatives from townships north of the Portage Lift Bridge, Keweenaw County Road Commission, Keweenaw County Zoning and Planning Commission, cities of Hancock and Houghton, Village of Calumet, Keweenaw and Houghton County Historical Societies, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Keweenaw Land Trust, Keweenaw National Histoirical Park, Keweenaw Community Foundation, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, WUPPDR and the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Efforts to obtain this designation began in Keweenaw County several years
ago, Hauswirth explained. U.S. 41 from Delaware to Copper Harbor, including the
covered road, was designated a State Heritage Route in 1994. A state designation
is required for the national application. In 2002, a smaller committee applied
for and received an extension of the State Heritage Route designation to include
the U.S. 41 stretch from Mohawk to Copper Harbor. After an application for a
national designation in 2002 was refused, a new plan was made to emphasize the
historical features of the area.
Hauswirth said the State Heritage Program expanded the designation to include
Houghton last spring, allowing the Committee to apply for the national
designation at that time.
Hauswirth also noted the national designation may help a pending application
by the Keweenaw County Road Commission for improving the Brockway Mountain Drive
with resurfacing, restoration of the rock walls and interpretive signage.
"We're just waiting for the announcement to find out if it's going to be
funded," she said of the Brockway project application.
Baker said another example of a project to be funded might be the stabilization of the dredge on Torch Lake, with an interpretive sign to let people know about the important role the dredge played in the history of copper mining here.
Local 3D computer artist Daniel Torkelson created this artistic rendering of Quincy Dredge #2 for presentation at the Fourth Biennial Lake Superior
Symposium at Michigan Technological University in May
2001. Before using the computer to create a 3-dimensional model of the dredge, he spent several hours
sketching and photographing the dredge and the surrounding area. He used snippets from the photos to create textures
for the dredge's siding and for the gray stamp sands. Daniel is currently a sophomore at Knox College, where he is studying art and computer science.
(Photo © 2001 Daniel Torkelson)
Hauswirth noted multi-use trails might be eligible for funding under the
designation, depending on the Committee members' priorities.
Through the National Scenic Byways Program, the U.S. Department of
Transportation recognizes a collection of routes that are regionally and nationally significant for their archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
The Federal Highway Administration National Byways Program lists 96 routes, including Woodward Avenue, from the Detroit River in downtown Detroit to the City of Pontiac.
Part of the $25,000 seed grant will be used to fund the new Copper Country Trail Web site,
http://www.coppercountrytrail.org, now under construction. Other marketing plans include a brochure with maps, explaining sites of interest and day trips off the main byway.
For more information about the National Byways, visit www.byways.org.
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